Last summer, MTV News was able to exclusively reveal a radically different look for Batgirl, as envisioned by a fresh new creative team -- Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr.
Now almost a year later, the new Batgirl's very first story arc has been collected into a new hardcover volume that hits shelves today (June 10), and both she and her fans alike have embraced her bright new aesthetic.
"Cameron [Stewart] says, 'Barbara Gordon’s at her best when she’s in contrast to Batman, and not like another version of him,'" Babbs Tarr told MTV News over the phone. "And I kinda like how our book gives her more of an identity."
"It was one of the main things of this arc, and I think it had to be, because it was going to be a question in the minds of the readers if they had read the previous New 52 incarnation of the character," Cameron Stewart said. "It’s part of the journey of the character that she is looking at herself and wondering who she is."
"Everything in the arc is challenging her question of what her identity is, and the conclusion of the arc is about her sort of reclaiming of herself," Brenden Fletcher added. "We just thought that was really important and it lets us move forward in a really exciting way, allowing Batgirl to be Batgirl, the best Batgirl she can possibly be."
When Barbara's new design was revealed, many fans were excited to see Batgirl head towards a brighter, less gloomy future. But some also worried that the series would be distancing itself from all the positive progress it had made with Barbara's transgender roommate, Alysia Yeoh.
That concern became even more pronounced with the arrival of the villainous Dagger Type, who cross-dresses as Batgirl in Issue #37. Dagger Type isn't identified as trans, but many readers were upset by Barbara's shock at his reveal, arguing that it bought into a "villainous man disguised in drag" trope that can often have real-world consequences for trans women.
But in response, the "Batgirl" team did something refreshing: rather than dismiss their critics as overreacting, they listened respectfully, publicly apologized, and promised to do better in the future.
"We are trying to do something that is really forward and progressive, and I think we hit a blind spot to us," Stewart told MTV News over the phone. "But one of the things we were really grateful for is the ongoing dialogue that we have with our readership, who are able to bring to our attention things that we may have been less aware of."
To make sure that they didn't upset any new readers, the team has even rewritten the offending line for the new hardcover collection, so that Dagger Type's gender presentation isn't what Batgirl's surprised about anymore:
"We didn’t want to alienate any part of our audience, and we felt doing this was a way where we were able to maintain our integrity for the story, we didn’t change the story in any way that we felt was a compromise, and we were able to be more sensitive to those who were upset by it," Fletcher said of the change.
The team also promises that soon Alysia Yeoh will be back in the mix in her own extended plotline, that culminates "with an amazing issue" in October -- that, of course, they can't talk about yet.
Frankie will also return as Barbara's new crime-fighting partner (though they refused to refer to her as Oracle, the name given to Barbara's pre-New 52 incarnation as a wheelchair-bound techie, they acknowledge that she definitely "fills the role of what Oracle did" back in the day), and familiar Batgirl villains Livewire and Velvet Tiger will appear in all-new costumes designed by Tarr. Plus, be prepared for a lot of father/daughter feels between Babs and Commissioner Jim Gordon, who -- spoiler alert! -- is now taking on the mantle of Batman.
No matter what happens to Batgirl and the gang, though, you'll never get bored of seeing them in their element -- artist Babs Tarr makes sure of that.
"My approach is if I have to do something boring, I find a way to make it fun," Tarr said. "So that it doesn’t read as boring to the readers. You can pick up on the energy of something if they weren’t as into drawing it. If I make it fun, like with crowd scenes if I put them all into really cool clothes, then like – all of a sudden this is cool, I’m into this now."
"They’re like Easter eggs that you can find," she said. "I just try to make fun things and make the book more enjoyable to read and another level of playfulness."
"Batgirl Volume #1" hits comic book store shelves today (June 10), and . "Batgirl Issue #41" will be available on June 24.
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